Page last updated at 09:53 GMT, Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Charity guilty of funding terror

Hamas-affiliated armed Palestinian militants in Gaza (file photo)
Hamas was designated by the US as a terrorist group in 1995

A Muslim charity and five of its former leaders have been convicted of funding the Palestinian militant group Hamas, designated a terrorist group in the US.

Jurors reached the guilty verdict after eight days of deliberations in the retrial of the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development.

The group - once the largest US Muslim charity - was accused of giving more than $12m (8m) to support Hamas.

It was the largest terrorism financing trial since the 9/11 attacks.

The former head of the charity, Ghassan Elashi, and the former chief executive, Shukri Abu-Baker, were convicted of 69 counts including money laundering and tax fraud.

Mufid Abdulqader and Abdulrahman Odeh were convicted on three counts of conspiracy, and Mohammed El-Mezain was convicted on one count of conspiracy to support a terrorist organisation.

Once the largest Islamic charity in the US. Based in Dallas, Texas
Five backers of the charity were indicted of financing a terror group in 2001. This was declared a mistrial, leading to retrial
At retrial the foundation was found guilty of helping Hamas spread its ideology and recruit supporters. The charity insists its work is only humanitarian

The Holy Land group was convicted on 32 counts. A sentencing date has yet to be announced.

The convicted men plan to appeal against the verdict.

Hamas was designated by the US as a terrorist group in 1995, making contributions to the group illegal.

The prosecution argued that Hamas controlled the charities to which $12.4m was sent between 1995 and 2001.

The indictment against the group said it sponsored orphans and families in the West Bank and Gaza whose relatives had died or been imprisoned as a result of Hamas attacks on Israel.

The Texas-based charity was shut down and had its assets frozen in 2001, as part of the clampdown that followed the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington.

The charity said it ran a legitimate operation helping Muslim families. Holy Land's supporters accused the US government of politicising the case as part of its so-called "war on terror".

Ghassan Elashi's daughter, Noor, said her father was "paying the price" for saving lives.

"My dad was persecuted for his political beliefs. It's as pure and simple as that," she said.

A previous trial against Holy Land ended last year in some confusion with the jury deadlocked, prompting a mistrial verdict and a subsequent retrial.

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